Amid a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in Maryland, Goucher College in Towson has reversed its decision to open its campus to some students for the fall semester.
The college will hold all its fall classes online, Goucher President Kent Deveraux announced in a news release Friday. Only students with a “critical need” for on-campus housing will live at Goucher, Deveraux said.
“Two months ago, when we began the process of planning for this fall, the public health data supported a decision to return to campus,” Devereaux wrote. “The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths in Maryland and surrounding states was declining, and the availability of testing was increasing each week. However, much has changed in the past month.”
Maryland’s COVID-19 numbers, which had been on the decline earlier this summer, have increased markedly in July. Over the past week, more than 1,000 new cases have been reported on three different days. In the weeks prior, the daily case count hovered below 500.
Baltimore County, where Goucher is located, is the jurisdiction with the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the state.
Goucher is the first local college to step back from plans to hold a “hybrid” fall semester, with a mixture of in-person and online offerings. Some Washington schools, though, have already done so, including Georgetown, George Washington and American universities.
The University System of Maryland, which includes about a dozen campuses in the state, including neighboring Towson University, is still planning to bring large numbers of students to its campuses in the fall, and announced mandatory coronavirus testing for returning students Thursday.
Goucher, which has about 2,000 students and an average class size of just 16 students, had planned to offer students single occupancy rooms this fall, and hold about 8% of its classes in person. More than 750 students had signed up to live on campus, and there was a wait list as a result, said Goucher spokesperson Tara De Souza.
But the rising COVID-19 case numbers threw a wrench in Goucher’s plans.
“That was the trigger,” De Souza said.
De Souza said room and board will be refunded, and the college has pushed back the date by which students have to commit to attending and pay their bills.
Goucher is also holding a virtual town hall session for students and parents at 5 p.m.